There are plenty of reasons to institute a workplace stretch program, not the least of which is employee safety. Whether a small business office environment, a manufacturing facility, or a construction site, workplace stretching can help prevent worker injury and improve morale among employees, as stretch breaks send a message that management is concerned about the well-being of employees. Breaking up the day with a stretching routine has many benefits, including:
· Encouraging employees to participate in workplace fitness
· Helping identify early-stage musculoskeletal injuries/disabilities
· Demonstrating commitment to employee health, fitness, and well-being
· Reducing the risk of injury among employees
Let’s take a look at the last bullet point—reducing the risk of injury. Regular stretching increases employees’ range of motion, thereby reducing the risk of pulled or strained muscles or other injuries, especially among employees whose jobs require moderate to strenuous physical labor.
Stretching as part of an overall fitness routine may have some unexpected benefits as well. Exercise is known to improve mood by releasing “feel good” chemicals in the brain—notably endorphins and adrenaline—and can improve a person’s confidence and self-esteem1.
Guidelines for setting up a workplace stretching program
First, it should be noted that a workplace stretch program is not a substitute for ergonomic office equipment and other worker safety precautions, but rather is part of comprehensive injury prevention and employee wellness programs. Here are some general guidelines for setting up a stretching program:
· Consult an occupational health professional for help setting up a stretching program
· Tailor stretching routine to commonly performed job duties
· Stretch regularly; 4-5 days a week, if possible
· Ensure stretching routines are led by someone trained in proper stretching techniques
· Emphasize proper form, to avoid injuries and ensure participants stretch only to the level of mild discomfort
A workplace stretching program can improve employee satisfaction, well-being, and fitness, and reduce costly workplace injuries, boosting an employer’s bottom line.